"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Unocal Slave Labor

Unocal agrees to settle rights case
The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 14, 2004


The oil company Unocal has reached an agreement in principle to settle human rights lawsuits involving charges of slave labor during a 1990s pipeline project in Myanmar, according to a company spokesman.

The lawsuits maintained that Unocal should be held liable for what was described as the enslavement of villagers during construction of a natural-gas pipeline in the 1990s in Myanmar.

The full panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had been scheduled to hear arguments on the case Monday afternoon in Pasadena, California. But the hearing was canceled at the request of both parties, the Unocal spokesman, Barry Lane, said Sunday night.

Human rights lawyers representing 14 anonymous villagers also said in the lawsuits that Burmese soldiers had murdered a baby, raped women and girls and forced people out of their homes to clear the pipeline's route.

The lawsuits have been considered a key test for human rights activists seeking to hold multinational corporations responsible in U.S. courts for actions committed abroad.

With discussions in progress to settle the lawsuits, Lane said, no details are being immediately released.

Construction of the pipeline, at a cost of $1.2 billion, began in 1992 and was completed in 1998.The pipeline, with a length of about 670 kilometers, or 415 miles, starts at the Yadana gas field, in the Andaman Sea, and crosses 65 kilometers of the Myanmar region of Tenasserim. This region is inhabited largely by ethnic minorities.

Unocal has denied that any human rights violations occurred during the construction of the pipeline.Rick Herz, litigation director for EarthRights International, which represents the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the case.Daniel Stormer, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately return a telephone call, and a call to a Unocal attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, was not immediately returned.
The case was first filed in Los Angeles federal court in 1996.
A federal judge dismissed it, prompting the plaintiffs to pursue their claims in state court.The federal case, which relies on the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act, which was originally enacted to prosecute pirates, was reinstated in 2002 by the appeals court of the Ninth Circuit.The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that certain types of cases involving violations of international law could be pursued in federal courts under the act.The judge presiding over the state case had set a June 2005 trial date.

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Milton Frihetsson, 14:12


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